**Originally published June 11, 2014. Updated October 30, 2019.**
Rapidly developing technologies make it challenging for parents to protect their children’s online privacy. Do you have a technically savvy child? Then you probably know what I’m talking about. Many ten-year-olds now know more about gadgets than adults do, which means we have to be extra vigilant about monitoring their online activity.
Laws, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), that restrict the types of data that websites can collect from your children’s online activity are intended to protect your child’s privacy. As the FTC states in the COPPA law, “The primary goal of COPPA is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young [under the age of thirteen] children online.” The biggest challenge, here, is that the law’s effectiveness relies heavily on honesty and compliance on the part of both children and their parents. Often, children who fall under the age threshold open accounts without their parent’s knowledge, or parents open accounts for them.
While COPPA is a step in the right direction, there are some additional actions parents can take to help protect their children’s online privacy, without having to take radical measures. Protecting their privacy also reduces their risk of child identity theft, a growing concern as more than 1 million children each year become victims of identity crimes.
Online Privacy and Safety Tips for Parents of Children Who Surf the Web
- Build Digital Literacy Skills by teaching children to never share personal information online, such as their home address, the school they attend, their name, age, or any other identifiable information. This can’t be stressed enough.
- Never Communicate With People They Don’t Know and avoid oversharing on social media and other online forums.
- Enable Internet Parental Controls in order to monitor your children’s Internet usage and to block inappropriate content. These settings are free and should be available through your Internet service provider (ISP).
- Read The Terms Of Service Agreements for the websites your children visit most often, especially social networking sites. Familiarize yourself with minimum age requirements.
- Create An Online Safety Contract that describes responsible Internet usage for your children, and the guidelines you, as a parent, will follow. We found a great example at the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).
- And Finally, Focus On The Positive! Children shouldn’t grow up fearful of technology. It’s better that they learn young that technology is not the problem, rather how it’s misused.
Effective parenting also means raising children who are responsible online citizens, who’ve been taught to navigate the digital world safely. Let’s ensure our children’s success by providing them with the tools and thoughtful guidance they need to benefit from the educational and social benefits of technology while protecting their online privacy.
Education is the best protection.